Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Sacred Suffering

I want so much to write words of warmth and comfort to so many that I know that are trudging in the heavy weight of unexplainable pain.  What is this mess we call life, and why in the name of all that is good, does it have to hurt so much sometimes just to live?  If you've ever truly been broken, you know exactly the pit from which these questions rise.  

It feels right to want to run away from pain.  We want to push and shove against all things hard while seeking to live in the gentle, breezy places of life.  But what if those places of most difficulty are really just sacred invitations to know the Savior in ways the gentle breeze could never reach?

There is nothing like brokenness to bring the frailty of life right into the spotlight.  Many things can break a person, but shattered hearts always land in the sea of broken.  We feel irreparably altered.  When your life is broken, it never goes back to the way it was before.  There now exists a line in the sand defining the person you once were and the person you have now had to become.

And broken always forces a choice.

There is the choice to lie down and die in the broken or to fight against it with every fiber of your being.  It never seems right to lie down and die.  But maybe, that is where brokenness is meant to lead us? Please wait dear friend, don't misunderstand my words.  The death that comes in brokenness surrendered to God will always lead back to life.

Will you walk with me for a minute into a bit of my own brokenness, into a page from a very hard day in the middle of many hard and broken years?


March 8, 2014
My world is not made of the same things it used to be.  I decided I need to write, even if were just the honest truth of life these days.  The journey that we have been on has been hard to describe. For some reason, I find a measure of closeness with words.  This story needs to be written because it is a very sacred part of our life.

There lies my best friend, my husband, the father of my sons.  He is so very sick.  Each week, I watch him suffer more and be able to do less.  Each week I see him get smaller and frailer.  I bring him soup.  I rub his head.  I hold his hand.  I cry.  We talk and laugh some.  Sometimes, there is just not much to say.  It gets very quiet.  We get frustrated.  We hug and and I tuck him back in bed.  I call the doctors.  The doctors call me.  Appointments are set. We wonder about options.  We wonder about the bills that will surely come. 

Then, it gets very bad.  This is beyond my rubbed-off nursing training from rooming with my nurse friend for a few years.  I have read the books and googled the symptoms.  I have called the doctors and given the medicines.  I have prayed the prayers and shed all the tears.  I need help.  He needs more than me.  They all agree, and we are back into the quiet hum of hospital security. It is quiet.  A needed quiet.  As the little drops make their way into his IV, I think many thoughts that I haven't had time to think.  I think about this story that God is writing into our life.   I think about all the people that have crossed our path during these difficult years. I think about the strength it takes for us to not get overly discouraged or feel utterly defeated.  It is tempting to be terrified. As I eat yet another cafeteria baked fish, I think about the brevity of life.  How quickly we can go from youthful strength to weakened vessels.  Our days are short, but somehow I know our lives don't have to be small. Even in the hum of the hospital we must have purpose.  This story I am living was written by my Creator, and it is up to me to live out the parts.  Do I cower in fear and worry, or do I step into the plot trusting the Author?  The thing is, I do trust Him, but I have never had to trust like this.  I know He is the one that parted waters for terrified and fleeing Israelite slaves.   And, just as those fearful Israelites stepped into the unknown floor of a suddenly barren sea, I will keep stepping in the unknown sea of this great challenge. 

The honest truth is that I don't know what is next.  I don't have any positive updates or great breakthroughs to post about his progress.  But what I do have is hope and trust.  I hope in the Lord, and I trust that this is part of His plan.  I trust Him with the care of my dearest love.  I honestly don't know when or if things will get better.  But I do believe that He loves us. He keeps showing me that truth, no matter what. I will keep waiting here trying to trust.


We were so fragile, desperate, and quietly treading water in the sea of broken.  All that we knew was shaken.  We watched so many of our dreams and hopes for our lives fade.  We died a death of sorts in the sea of brokenness.

But it was in that sacred sea, that God began to tangibly bind us in His healing grasp.  He was so close, so intimate, and so very gentle.  He invited us into the quiet place of the soul where He met with us and showed us His own brokenness he brought forth on our behalf. That dark sea began to shimmer with the Sacred.  And as time progressed, it felt as though this once lonely place was transforming into an invitation to know and be known in ways we had never been.  His brokenness became givenness, and it poured out over our trembling souls.   

And then, He led us to others that had been given the same invitation.  Through weary eyes and wrinkled foreheads, I began to see the soft glow of life shining from the precious people that knew the calling into that Sacred Sea.  I heard their stories, and they echoed my own.  Though the journey was different for each one that came, they all stated the wonder of life that arises from the darkest pit.  Those that know Jesus and know suffering, they know the Sacred.

There are so many ways to break.  Death breaks us when it robs us of those we love.  Love breaks us when it is betrayed and trampled upon.  Dreams break us when they are left unlived.  People break us when they beat our hearts up with their own brokenness.  And disease, it tramples the life right out of your veins. But when you find yourself drowning deeply in that sea of broken, there is hope.  If you know the Savior, He will stretch out His own broken hands and show you His own broken side from which His own blood ran.  He will take that darkest broken and offer an invitation to know Him, to know the Sacred.  He will lift your chin to life and offer you entrance into His presence.  

This invitation does not erase the scars. It doesn't eliminate the hurt or replace the tragedy.  It will not always bring earthly healing or restoration of the damaged.  But, this invitation to the Sacred allows the broken to see the Savior and to understand in depths indescribable the love of a broken Savior.  And when you see the Savior, new life begins and every moment becomes Sacred thereafter.  And then, your brokenness becomes givenness, and that givenness offers hope poured out to the broken that are still sinking in the Sacred Sea of Suffering.

And in the Broken Sea, life emerges with a sense of gratitude for seeing the Savior in a way that can only be found by way of the Broken Sea.  Gratitude that does not logically coexist with our understanding of pain emerges. It is a rare gratitude for the intimacy and givenness of Jesus.

May you know Him, may you trust Him, and may He bring forth life from your broken heart.

 



Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Undeserved

Sometimes, I get knocked over, blown away, and left utterly speechless by the vastness of God's grace. I think the most humbling part is that I am keenly aware that I am so undeserving.  I bring nothing good of my own to this equation, yet He lavishes me none-the-less.  He bears my burdens, hears my complaints, dries my tears, handles my anger, ushers peace over my anxiety, and He tends the very garden of my heart.

And, if that were not enough, He chooses to use me.  And oh, the love and weight of that knowledge sometimes knocks me to my very knees.  I am but a girl with a scarred heart and my own bent towards disobedience.  I can be the one waving the palms at Jesus and then a week later be the one holding a hammer.  But he takes it, and loves it, and uses it all.

God's grace to me is undeserved but extravagant.   I gave him a crown of thorns, and He gave me a crown of life.  I gave Him a cross, and He gave me grace.









Friday, April 7, 2017

A Letter to My Future Grandchildren

In memory of my own grandparents that showed me life and love, I write a letter of sorts far into the future that might find my own yet-to-be born grandchildren some distant day, so that they too could know from whence they came. May my own little boys grow to be men and fathers that continue to carry onward these torches.   

My Dear Ones,

I write this letter to you in hopes to inspire courage and strength in your lives.  I cannot imagine the world in which you are living, but I can tell you of the world from which you came.  

I can tell you that there was a time when people thought more highly of others than they did of themselves.  There was an age where men were valiant, strong, and tender.  They knew how to treasure the people in their lives.  They were keenly aware of the task of leading and providing for a family.  They worked with dignity and honor.  They gave of their time selflessly, and sought to bring dignity to the world in which they lived.  They were movers, shakers, fixers, fighters, and farmers.  They wore their marriage ring proudly, they honored their parents, and they were willing to put themselves in the way of danger to protect the ones they loved.  They knew hard work.  They didn't back down from a challenge, and they didn't break a vow. They did not need the approval of any crowd.  They only looked for the twinkle in the eyes of the hearts they loved.  That was enough.  They were faithful men; faithful to their God and to their families.  They were loyal and could be trusted and counted upon to finish what they began.  These men were tender with their children, and they sought to instill the deep sense of value into their hearts.

There was a time when women were lovely from the inside out.  They were strong and mighty, but gentle in spirit.  Wisdom flowed from their hearts.  Their touch was healing, and their reach was wide.  They were the backbone of every strong family.  Their Bibles were worn, and their knees were calloused.  They poured their hearts into whatever their hands set forth to do.  Their loved flowed over in things like Sunday biscuits, intricate needlework, beautiful poetry, and bountiful harvests.  They had joy and beauty.  It was the kind of beauty that created soft wrinkles at the edges of their eyes and corners of their smiles.  They were treasured, honored, and respected.  They were beloved. They could roll up their sleeves and work harder than you can imagine.  Their calloused hands could cup a child's face and bind the wounds of a broken heart.   They were beautiful women of faith and they lived freely in their identity.  

You see, dear ones, these people were authentic.  They lived fully and heartily.  They worked, they loved, they worshiped, and they knew how to be a friend.  They were not perfect, but they were genuine.  I knew them by their first names.  I ate at their tables and heard their stories.  I watched them carve out a legacy.  I felt the weight on my shoulders to follow behind them in the paths they blazed for my life.  I bore their names with my own.  I had the shape of their lips, the curls of their hair, and the same love of growing things.   I knew them, I loved them, and I treasured them.

And...I have tried to pour their goodness all the way down to you. It hasn't been easy.  The world keeps pressing and fighting for souls.  The crowd calls for the allegiance of the masses and makes a soul feel stranded when it tries to withstand the current of trend.   But, it isn't stranded.  In the midst of a chaotic time, the steadfast love of God always shines.  

I tell you now Dear Ones that I have read to my sons, your fathers, and sang them many songs.  I have prayed over them and with them every night.  Your fathers, my beautiful boys, were made to seek patience and look for the good in the heart of others.  They were boys that were not allowed to be cruel.  They were kissed and hugged every day.  They ate at my table and read from my Bible.  Your grandfather walked them through woodlands, taught them of nature, and sang over them songs of faith.  We sat with them in church pews and shared countless milestones.  We taught them to treasure the people in their lives, work hard at whatever tasks they were given, seek humility, and always offer friendship. We failed some days to do our job well, but we never stopped trying.  

This, Dear Ones,  is from which you come.  This blood flows through your veins even now.  This courage and conviction is deeply rooted into your fibers, and this DNA is intertwined with your very own.  Do not be afraid to walk in the ways that were laid before you.  Do not fear the challenge of hard work, authentic relationships, and trusted character.  Trust in the way that God made you.  

Your world may scoff at your efforts, but your soul will grow in countless ways.  The words of your enemies might seem cruel and destructive, but it is at your doorstep where they will land in the time of trouble.  Your God will lead you.  You can trust Him.  You can count on my words to be true.  I have lived and loved, and now Dear Ones, into your hands I pass this torch. May you bravely carry it to the generations to come.

Your Loving Grandmother- Leah



Sunday, February 19, 2017

Time

It seems a bit impossible, this ever changing of days that adds up to a lifetime.  The swift passage of moments remind me that as each day ends and a new one begins, memories are piling and months are accumulating.  It is ever noticeable in changing seasons, growing children, and in the soft lines that now spread across my forehead.  How am I here? How has all this life added up to these years, these numbers, these miles and all these addresses?

I can begin to see how quickly a life passes.  I nearly feel life's vapor under my breath slowly, yet aggressively passing with each lived moment.  Time marching on as it goes making a life into a living history and telling the tales of love lived out in worn denim and caramel colored boots.  Days, years compiling to wrinkles and stories of wonder and failure.  Time-a lifetime- whether short or extended, is all the time a soul gets in this one ride around the universe we experience.  And then, by some great gift of grace and bending low, we are ushered into a time with no limits we cannot grasp with earthly minds.

But until then, here where days are numbered and bodies wither, time is the gift of the now.  Time to breathe and stretch in this graceful skin stretched over our bones, time to feel the warmth of a glowing evening sun, time to touch warm salt splashes from the ocean, to experience frozen bits of snow nestled like glittered confetti in eyelashes...time for all of these.  Time to feel the rush of love's embrace, time to feel the empty in the lonely nights waiting for the unknown to arrive, time to hear the music that stirs a soul, time to feel the cotton softness of welcomed sheets beckoning exhaustion to take a pause for relief.  Time to know and be known.  Time for the good, the heartbreaking, the lovely, the tragedy.  For this present moment there is time, and time is the gift that beckons the recipient to treasure it in ways that may seem futile.  Treasuring time by sitting in solitude while bathing in the song of violins.  Time to stare into the face of a child learning these ways of living.  There is this moment to study the bark on a tree, the delicate silken petals of the evening rose, time to savor the feeling of a moment ushered in by the beauty of everything around it.

And then...in this pausing grateful experiential moment where life floats like a crystalline bubble in the palm, there is just enough time to find the Great God of the Universe who bottled this moment and stored up golden rays of sunshine just so it could splash across your very face.  There is time to experience the holy in suspended dew drops on spring leaves.  There is the beckoning of pursuit of the Creator that knitted your heart, your days, your every moment together for such a time to meet Him in all His splendor as it rests on the freckled nose of the child at your waist.  There He is, the Creator and Keeper of moments whispering like the breeze in the valley to find Him, know Him, walk in His love and learn of His ways.

Then, and only then, time hangs in the balance and extends itself like heavy droplets from a summer spigot that hasn't yet come to fullness.  Time pauses and the Holy greets each heartbeat like a dignitary entering the palace walls.  This is time with God, and there is no end to this time.  He never ceases to provide it in abundance, and He stands ready to invite you in to find Him, find time, find pause, find Holy where He alone can fill a soul with all the time it will ever need.




Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Healing What is Broken


I opened my heart a few days ago to an old wound and a person that knew the history.  It was hard and full of tears and self-doubt.  Momentarily, I felt regret for being so raw.  I even uttered apologies, but in the depth of my soul I knew that the sharing of a wound is often the start of the healing of a wound.  I timidly offered my broken up to Jesus.  And in this offering of my broken, I simply found the beautiful gift of more of Jesus.

Too often, I feel this need to carry my hurts alone.  Maybe, I think it is too personal, too intimate to allow anyone into my silent suffering.  Perhaps, I am convinced that strong people bandage their scars and keep moving.  Maybe I am afraid that others will not find my hurt to be worthy of the pain that it has placed on my life.  Maybe, I am just too ashamed.  Sometimes, I realize some wounds are self-inflicted.  There are a million things that can go with a million hurts.

I've been reading some very powerful things on the brokenness of life.  It is eye-opening to walk into the depths of the wounds of this world.  We all carry hurt.  We all cause hurt.  We all fall short of everything we desperately do not want to fall short in.  We hurt, we harbor, we hesitate.  -And then we grieve.  Rarely, do we really heal.  Mostly, we all want healing but not if it causes exposure.

I am beginning to see that the lie of this world is to take our hurts and seal them inside.  Our hurts threaten to crack us open and expose our soul.  We fear exposure.  We fear honesty.  We fear the very appearance of weakness.  We place great value on stoics.  What does it say of a soul if they are cracked open, exposed with the hurt dripping out?  

What if broken, open hearts are not to be feared?  Even I have stood under the shade of a towering tree with the knowledge that the trunk of strength began as a very broken seed.  I know the truth that it only grew from the ripping open of it's very core.  What does this tell me about my broken?  What does it tell me about God's redemption of broken things?

I love this sentence I recently read. "The wounds that never heal are always the ones mourned alone."1 It is those silent weights kept locked in the depths of a heart that never get oxygen, never get reprieve, never get healing.  You see, I am learning that brokenness can only heal brokenness.  It is when we are willing to pour our own brokenness into given-ness that healing begins.   When I can take my hurt and expose it to your hurt, we find strength to walk our hurts boldly into the light where God can wrap us with His healing Hand.  

Didn't Christ model this for us?  Didn't He break Himself into this world to pour Himself into our brokenness?  He took our hurts, our sins- and split Himself to pour out His healing.  To grasp a wound so tightly is to withhold it from finding the healing that is freely pouring out to us still.  

Maybe if you knew that I feel the pulse of anger when my children disappoint, or that I too have the flash of fury when those nearest to me do not meet my expectations- maybe if I am honest and share this together we can share our broken and find mercy.  Maybe if you knew that my heart was split years ago to a lost love, you too could split your heart open about your great loss.  Maybe the splitting, fighting feelings we all clutch really do just need to split on open and expose the rawest of pains so that the brokenness of our Savior can pour into our lives and give us the healing we all desperately need.  Maybe instead of clenched fists we need open palms.  Broken, open hands that reach out instead retract within.  Christ on the cross was spread eagle, not curled into a self-protecting ball.  

But how do we do it?  How do we breathe in courage?  How do we look  at Satan, the father of all lies, right in the face and shout that we are not afraid- we are not going to cling to the fear he feeds us!  We are not going to nurse silent wounds.  

We can only do it when we fling open our arms, our hearts, our brokenness  to Jesus.  Jesus spilled for us, and we don't have to hide.  We take our broken, cracked-open-bleeding hearts straight to His cross and ask for more.  More of Him.  More of Jesus.  And He will always give us more.  Then, we take that more and pour it on other broken hearts.  We pour and pour more of Him, and He fills and fills.  He fills the cracks, the broken places.  He fills with healing so that healing can be poured out.  

I am daring to live my life more open, more cracked so that it can be more filled. I know that I can only pour out to others what has been poured into me, poured over my own brokenness.   

-Jesus, I reach with palms open with my broken to You, the only One that can fill, the only One that can heal.  Help me to open my broken so that I can pour out You...




 1. Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 2016)223.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Way...

Maybe....the most loving thing I could ever do is tell you the truth.  Maybe we've all lived in a world too long that is afraid of truth.  I believe that it is time I stop fearing hurt feelings and start helping heal feelings.  What is love if it isn't first true?  How could I ever offer anything of value if it did not first come from the truest place of my heart?

How do I look a hurting world in the face and not be truthful?  What if I had the jewel that breaks open the beauty of living, and I kept it to myself?  Beauty unshared isn't beautiful.  We all get sick of platitudes.  We are weary of empty campaigns.  We are numb of words that look shiny but have no depth.  Images and sound bytes fill up our spaces of hope, but the actual living out of hope seems near extinction.

You see, hope isn't found on a church pew or at a seaside.  Hope doesn't live on mountain crests or orbit planets.  Hope isn't grown in a field.  It doesn't ripen on a branch or rise in an oven.  Hope isn't a thing, it is a Person.   

The truth is that Hope is someone You can know and link your one tender heart to.  Hope broke itself open, spread it's life, spilled it's life, and beckons you to enter in.  Why are we so afraid?  Why does it push people away to know that Hope lives eternal, and that there is a pathway straight to the heart of hope?  

My stomach flips trying to find words to match this truth that I want to shower from skies above to all that will hear it.  I can't breathe until I say it.  I can't smile your way until you know that my love for you is so true that I would risk rejection before I would not share this truth.  

And maybe you think I am crazy.  Maybe you believe I have walked off the edge of some mental cliff.  Maybe you believe that my mind is weak, and I am not able to rise above the fog clearly.  

But I know what I saw and I can't forget it.  I can't go back to empty platitudes and filtered images of a pretend world that no one really lives in.  I have walked broken, broken as a soul can be right into the side of a wounded Christ.  This isn't the flannelgraph faith of my childhood, but rather a daring journey I have taken to the heart of the matter.  I met Jesus.  I met Him, and He met me.  I joined my soul to His.  I joined my life to His, and He has joined to me.  

He is teaching me that what I know of love is so small compared to the the truth of love.  I am seeing that the breaking of my heart is purposeful so that love can seep deep into the cracks of my core.  I am learning to see that my life begins the instant I lose it.  This losing isn't to worthless causes, but a giving of life to the source of life.  Crazy, yes, but oh so true.  I am not the same person I once was.  I am forever altered by Love.

When you really and fully meet Jesus, meet Hope, and you press your soul into this knowing, everything changes.  Love becomes who you are and what you do.  You ache to bring others into this knowing.  You see souls instead of faces, you feel patience instead of hatred.  You long to piece together brokenness by piecing people to the place of meeting Hope.  You can't keep this jewel of life hidden.

I can not.  I will not.

My friends, the truth is, this is where the depth and meaning of life reaches beauty.  It is in the knowing and joining your one heart, your one life, to the One that gave it to you in the beginning. It is daring to live in way that seems radical to this world.  It is the freedom of not feeling the weight of expectation from any person or any entity as to how your life should look, rather knowing that a loved life looks a lot like Jesus.

The most loving thing I can do for you is gently take your hand and show you the way, the truth, the life...to Jesus.  


Thursday, November 17, 2016

To The Twenty-Eight People I Used to Eat Turkey With Every Year

Have you ever been caught so strongly by a memory that it nearly levels you?  Maybe you hear a song, or catch a scent on the breeze, or perhaps you simply look into the eyes of a loved one and instantly you are transported to a moment etched flawlessly your mind.

This week, I dipped mashed potatoes on my plate at a luncheon.  Something about that moment, the scent of butter and roasted turkey, the waiting with plate in hand, caught me so strongly.  I felt like a little child waiting in line in my Mamaw Evelyn's kitchen for a holiday meal.  The house was full of people, children, and laughter.  I can see the beautifully meringued pies sitting on the dessert table.  The turkey was on the bar next to the rolls.  The table was full of aunts and uncles, the living room occupied by fourteen cousins.

For a moment, it was like I was there watching it all play out in front of me.  The sounds, the warm house, the running of little boys everywhere.  I could almost touch it.  I could see the pile of large curls on my mamaw's beehive.  I could hear my cousin Aaron laughing.  I could watch my Papaw cut the turkey with the electric knife.  I could taste the hot, homemade rolls.

Nothing terribly remarkable happened all those holidays.  It was the same house, the same menu, and the same 29 people that always attended. But all that sameness added up over the years to a patchwork masterpiece of childhood memories.  All the predictables and treasured recipes built security and love in the life of a growing girl.

And here, in line at a luncheon with plate in hand, the weight of it all presses on my heart in a wave of lovely gratitude for the memories, the sameness, the security in my life.  So much washed over my heart in between the mashed potatoes and the turkey.  I giggled and felt teary all at once.  It might seem silly to think our little family would drive seven hours over the appalachian mountains every single year for the same turkey, the same people, and the same pies.   But we all knew, it was never for the menu.

Our family was never perfect.  My memories are not all framed and golden, but the ones that are will be treasures I hope to recall lifelong.  If I could truly step back in time to that moment as a child, I would whisper in the ear of all my aunts, "thank you, you are lovely through and through."  If I could climb on the knees of my uncles, I would look them in the eye and tell them "Thank you for your great stories and making me always feel safe."  And- if I could climb in the recliner with my Papaw, I would put my little hands on his face and grin with gratitude for growing me a big ole family that loved me so.  If I could sit at that bar and eat Mamaw's noodles by the handfuls before they were even cooked, I would utter with mouth filled how perfectly sweet her love was for every single one of us.

And...if I could take that seven hour journey over those mountains in that old red station wagon with my brother and parents, I'd say..."One day, this will be a memory.  One day we will be spread all over this world and we won't be able to eat turkey and pie together...but it is because of these hours, years together, we will be able to do it with love and happiness.  Because when God gives you so much love...so much love, you can't not want to share it as far and wide as possible."

I sit down with my little plate of food.  I smile with gratitude that I get to share all that glorious love poured into me since birth with anybody that will take it.  May God give me truck loads of it to give away every single day.  Then, I chuckle a bit and know with certainty as I eat a mouthful of potatoes....

No mashed potatoes will ever replace Mamaw's.


Be loved, be grateful, and share it. Happiest of Thanksgivings!




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